The Treaty on European Union says in Article 49 that ‘any European State’ which respects the values on which the Union is founded and is committed to promoting them may apply to become a member of the Union. These values are referred to in Article 2 of the same Treaty.
Every country meeting the conditions of Article 49 TEU has to meet the basic conditions laid down by the European Council, in particular the criteria set out at its meeting in Copenhagen in 1993. These criteria require the stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities, the existence of a functioning market economy and the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union, and the ability to take on the obligations of membership, including the administrative capacity to effectively apply and implement the acquis. The capacity of the Union to integrate new members is also an important consideration.
The enlargement process currently encompasses Iceland, Turkey and the countries of the western Balkans. Croatia has the status of an acceding country, and is scheduled to join the EU on 1 July 2013 following ratification by all Member States of its Accession Treaty. Accession negotiations are ongoing with Iceland and Turkey. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia have the status of candidate countries, with which accession negotiations have not yet begun. Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo(1) are potential candidates.